Ninth Circuit Rules That Facebook’s Facial Recognition Could Violate Biometric Law

Technology recognizing your face in a picture before even you do?

It seems crazy. But that is the world in which we now live. However, some residents of Illinois are fighting for their privacy in a specific area—Facebook’s tag suggestion facial recognition feature.

Here’s the summary
On Aug. 9, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously upheld certification of a class of Illinois Facebook users alleging that the social media giant’s facial recognition feature called “tag suggestions” violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”). BIPA is probably the strictest law in the U.S. regarding biometric data. Biometric data includes scans of the eye, face, fingerprint, and other methods of identity data collection. Many argue that people must stand firm in their rights to privacy whereas others would say that technology cannot continue to grow without adaptation on our end. Where do we draw the line between allowing for technological advancement and choosing to overlook blatant infringements on personal privacy?

What does the Ninth Circuit say?
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit argues that the development of a face template using facial recognition technology without consent is taking Facebook’s involvement too far. They point out that since Facebook keeps face templates, inevitably they could use people’s photos for whatever purposes they see fit, including opening people’s phones or even tracking people’s location according to other photos in which they appear on Facebook.

What does Facebook say?
Without success, Facebook argued that for BIPA to apply, Facebook users would have to provide proof that their photos were uploaded in Illinois and that the company could be sued for violating the state law even though facial data is stored and scanned on servers outside of Illinois. These arguments were rejected by the Ninth Circuit.

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